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Herbal Thanksgiving: ‘Root’beer & Hawthorn- Cranberry Sauce

What better way to start a blog than to offer recipes for the holidays! Kitchen herbalism is where I shine- marrying food & herbal medicine with simplicity. Thanksgiving is days away and I’ll be cooking up these herbal concoctions to share with family. I’m always amused by sharing creations like these with people who have never experienced herbs. Watching the magic unfold as they sip on herbal root beer or munch on a damiana truffle…. Oh what fun!

These recipes were conjured up in my mind with the understanding that many heart attacks, especially fatal ones, occur during the holidays. My spin on these is to encourage healthy digestion from over-indulging and support cardiovascular health without asking you to take anything away from your normal holiday routines- that’s an article for another day.

Please enjoy these herbal recipes! And if you don’t know where to find these herbs… track down your local herb shops. In Indianapolis, my go-to herb shop is Good Earth in Broad Ripple.

Rootbeer Digestive Aid Syrup:

Rooted in herbal history is the beloved root beer syrup. With flavors so strong, it’s hard to mess this recipe up! So take mine and make it your own. Many will add orange zest, cinnamon, wintergreen, peppermint and more. To drink this as a soda, just add it to carbonated water. 

Herbs aren’t meant to be used only during illness but rather as daily inclusions to enhance vitality. The recipe below was created to support digestion during holiday feasts. Sassafras and sarsaparilla are what we call alteratives- in this case they support detoxification of toxins and wastes. The addition of burdock and anise seed supports mobilization and better utilization of fats and proteins while ginger ignites the digestive fire and reduces bloating & indigestion. When taken before a meal, these herbs get the digestive processes ready for action so you can get the most out of your food…and eliminate the rest.

Makes 3 cups of syrup

Ingredients:

1 oz Sassafras root

1 oz Sarsaparilla root

½ oz Anise seed

½ oz Burdock root

1 T Ginger root

3 cups sugar or raw honey

6 cups water

Carbonated water

Mesh strainer or other filter like mesh cloth

Pour the cold water into a pot before placing all herbs in. Stir it up & bring to a boil before reducing heat to a low rolling simmer. You can either mark the water line on a chopstick (or other utensil) or eyeball it’s evaporation so that it is reduced by half. Keep the lid cracked while decocting these herbs as this will help to keep some of the medicinal volatile oils from  evaporating off. Strain herbs out and press with a spoon to get out all that medicinal goodness! Place back in the pot and add sugar, stirring to incorporate. If using raw honey, allow the tea to cool before mixing so that you may preserve its’ enzymes and other heat sensitive medicinal benefits. Bottle it & store in the fridge! This ratio of sweetener to tea is 1:1 and is therefore not shelf stable (you’ll need a 2:1 for that!) but will keep in the fridge for a few weeks… though I’m sure you’ll find yourself guzzling this up sooner. All you’ll need is 2-4 tablespoons of syrup per cup of carbonated water!

Cranberries are already a plethora of antioxidants and are of great benefit to the urinary tract, but what if we amped it up with some heart healing herbs? Hawthorn berries are gems of the herbal world by being a protective cardiovascular tonic. One way it does this is by enhancing the muscle cells within the heart to have more energy and better utilization of it! A super food for your heart to include daily. Hawthorn berries and rose hips lend well to so many recipes that you can easily find ways to incorporate them. Here’s one fabulous way to use them this Thanksgiving.

Makes: 3 cups

Ingredients:

12 oz cranberries

2 oz hawthorn berries

1 oz rose hips

¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 ½ cup water

¾ cup honey or sugar

Begin by adding the water to a pot and decocting the hawthorn berries & rose hips for 20 minutes with a low rolling simmer. Mash the berries once they are soft enough to ensure proper extraction while decocting. Strain the herbs & press out with a spoon. Return the liquid to the pot and if using sugar, add this now to melt it. Then add the cranberries and allow to simmer until they ‘pop’ around 10 minutes. You can mash them at this point to give it a more even consistency. Allow to cool before mixing in honey and scooping into a jar.  

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